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Turn peas into profit this Harvest

AS HARVEST approaches, Christian Aid is urging Christians to help farmers like Frank (pictured right) from Malawi.

Photo: Richard Nyoni

Frank found that, because of climate change, his traditional crop maize failed when the rains didn’t come, bringing hardship and malnutrition to his family. “It is very pathetic, as a father, to feel helpless like that, to feel like you cannot provide food for your children, and that there is nothing you can do to make them better when they are crying,” says Frank.

Christian Aid’s partner, the Evangelical Association of Malawi, has been helping Frank to grow a special variety of pigeon peas, a remarkable protein-rich crop and ideal for southern Malawi’s dry soil. They are forming farmers’ clubs, to learn business skills and plan their planting, which will ensure a good balance of crops and generate profits.

A fun Frank and the Pea Stalk fairy tale is a way of telling Frank’s story to children.

Limbering up to raise funds at the London Marathon

RUNNERS from across the Diocese are in training for the London Marathon to raise money for charities.

Tens of thousands of people pass Tower Bridge during the London Marathon. Photo: Shutterstock.

The Revd Kate Stacey, the Vicar of the Wychwood Benefice in Oxfordshire, and Ben Schiffer-Harte, a teacher who worships at St Mary’s, Thatcham are both in training to run the iconic 26.2 mile race for Christian Aid on Sunday 23 April.

Harry Routledge, 37, will be running to raise funds for Parents and Children Together (PACT). The Revd Janet Binns, the Rector of Hedsor with Bourne End Benefice in Buckinghamshire, is running to raise funds for an audio system in St Nicholas’s Church in Hedsor. Harry and his wife Claire adopted three children through PACT, the adoption charity that has close connections with the Oxford Diocese. Harry is one of seven runners who will be taking on the challenge for PACT.

Harry said: “Adoption is not easy for all concerned, but it’s absolutely worth it. We have become the ‘Fantastic 5’ and owe part of it to the support we received from PACT, as well as the fact that we would never have been introduced to our daughters and son if it had not been for this charitable organisation. To adopt a sibling group of three children is tough, even more so when they are all under four, particularly at once, but they deserved to stay together.”

For Ben, 2017 will be his eighth marathon and fourth in London. He is training with Thatcham based running club Team Kennet and hopes to complete the marathon in three hours. “For any marathon runner this is a huge achievement,” he says. Ben says that since joining St Mary’s, he and his wife Jo have been made to feel very welcome and made good friends.
They have been involved in fundraising events, including a quiz for Christian Aid. “Fast forward four months and I received a Golden Bond (a guaranteed charity place) courtesy of Christian Aid. To top it off and make it even more of an incentive for people to sponsor me I am running the Paris Marathon only two weeks earlier.”

London will be Kate’s first marathon and she says that being the Sunday after Easter Day, it’s not perfect timing for a vicar. “Trying to carve out the time for training is getting tricky as the runs get longer, but it’s a good discipline.”

When she reaches the start line at London, Janet will be embarking on her 12th marathon. “I am aiming to raise £2,000. I usually train for a time of three-and-a-half hours. London is amazing because the crowds are fantastic.”

Fight poverty with soup this Lent

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PEOPLE across the Diocese are being urged to support Christian Aid by eating soup this Lent.

For example, in the Hambleden Valley, there will be a series of Lent Lunches to raise money for Christian Aid’s work.

Organiser Penny Mcleish said, “Over the years we’ve raised thousands of pounds to help people in

Michael with his grandson

need.” The money raised is used to help people like Michael, who lives in South Sudan, where 6.1 million people urgently need humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict that erupted in December 2013. Ongoing fighting has displaced 2.4 million people, and up to 5.3 million people are at risk of severe food shortages.

Michael, who is in his 70s and has gradually lost his sight during the past five years, fled alongside his family when government forces came to his village. Soldiers killed people and stole cattle, forcing Michael to flee to the swamp where he resided with his family for two months. When they returned, most of their belongings were gone, and they were left with next to nothing. With the help of fishing hooks and nets from Christian Aid, Michael is now able to take the younger generation to the swamp to teach them how to fish so they can continue to feed their community.

Phil Evans, of Christian Aid’s Oxford office, said: “We are asking you to reflect each day on the blessings in your life through Count Your Blessings, inspired by daily opportunities to give, act and pray for communities like Michael’s, helping them to find a safe place to call home.”
Christian Aid is working with people displaced within South Sudan, who are living in some of the hardest to reach places, to provide much-needed food, safe water and sanitation facilities and essential household items, including sheeting for temporary shelters, as well as fish hooks and nets so they can start to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient.

Just £15 could provide fishing gear for a family like Michael’s; £8.50 could provide two cooking pots so they can eat a hot meal; and £3 could pay for two plastic jerry cans so they can store safe drinking water.

Hambleden Valley Churches are holding three Lent Lunches on Saturdays 18, 25 March and 1 April in the Hambleden Parish Hall and at St John the Evangelist Frieth on Saturday 8 April noon to 2pm. For details contact Penny on 01491 571288 or penny_mcleish@hotmail.com.

Serbian Marija Vransevic shares the plight of refugees in a visit to the Diocese of Oxford

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by Jo Duckles

IN Aleppo their neighbourhood has been destroyed and the family have been forced to leave the ruins of their home for a refugee camp in Serbia.

Dad has managed to leave for Germany, but mum and children are left behind in the camp, desperate to follow. But with the borders closed the chances of the family being reunited is slim.

That is one of the scenarios that Marija Vransevic, from the humanitarian charity, Philanthropy, comes across during the course of her work. Philanthropy is run by the Serbian Orthodox Church and is Christian Aid’s partner in Serbia. Marija is a programme manager who oversees projects in refugee camps. She meets people who have faced war, beatings, blackmail and more and works to help them live with some dignity.

“I spend at least 30 per cent of my time in the field to understand what the needs really are. I then write reports to present those needs in a manner that is understandable to Philanthropy’s partners,” says Marija. She communicates with the Serbian Government, the media and other agencies as she tries to raise awareness of ways that they can provide help to refugees.

Marija spoke to me over a slice of home-made cake at Oxford’s new Christian Aid offices. She was visiting England to raise awareness of Philanthropy’s work as part of Christian Aid’s 2016 Christmas appeal:  Light the Way. The personal experiences of the refugees she has met were among the stories she shared with churches and student groups during a two-week tour of the South East. Since then 16,000 more residents have Aleppo have been displaced, according to national news reports, and the crisis is constantly escalating.

“It is a joy for us to be on the spot and to understand the challenges people are facing. It’s about not feeling sorry or sad for these people but to feel strength, to feel positive and not to get into the dark areas of misery and hopelessness. When you listen to the personal experiences of these people it can make you question the whole structure of the world and how people made decisions that led to so much misery.

“It’s a huge challenge to remain ourselves, to find faith and hope inside ourselves because they definitely don’t need our tears. It’s about supporting and strengthening them and helping them know there is a future and a good place, even if they have a lot of steps ahead of them.”

Marija described the importance of trying to help refugees maintain their dignity, and to react properly to their needs.

“They are safe in the camps in Serbia. They have proper healthcare protection, social welfare protection and proper food. We try and bring them an element of dignity as they can choose for themselves what they need. Certain colours are offensive in some cultures and we wouldn’t know that so when women for example ask for scarves to cover their heads we want them to choose their own.

“The vast majority of people in Serbia are coming from families that have been separated. Some are in central, western or Northern Europe. Some are still back home, so they are very upset and scared. They are slowly becoming aware that their expectations will not be fulfilled.

“It’s difficult to work with children. Most have been out of school for years. I feel even more upset for the teenagers. It’s easy to smiles on the faces of smaller ones, but once they are aged 13 to 15 they understand what it happening and how the parents feel. They can understand the media as well and they are the most vulnerable ones.”

The refugees in the camps are given activities. “We try and engage them not as beneficiaries but as implementers. There are young men and women in their early 20s involved with the food distribution. “

“I think we can help Christians to understand the real needs of refugees. The number is growing constantly so the scope of the crisis is hard to understand.

“Christian Aid has a strong policy of protecting human dignity, being present in the field, working with people and we are able to help people understand the needs directly.  It’s crucial for Christians from England and to understand what the life of refugees is like.”

Marija Vransevic who is visiting the Diocese to talk about the plight of refugees.

Marija Vransevic who is visiting the Diocese to talk about the plight of refugees.

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Emergency support for the Haitian victims of Hurricane Matthew

CHRISTIAN aid agencies are calling for emergency support for Haitians affected by Hurricane Matthew. Tearfund and Christian Aid have launched appeals to help their work on the ground in Haiti, where it is estimated that between three and five million people have been affected. The hurricane is the worst to hit Haiti since 1954 and comes as the country is still vulnerable from the earthquake of 2010.

Scenes of devastation in Haiti. Photo Marc Antoine/Tearfund.

Scenes of devastation in Haiti. Photo Marc Antoine/Tearfund.

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Scenes of devastation in Haiti. Photo: Marc Antoine/Tearfund.

Tearfund and Christian Aid have launched appeals to help their work on the ground in Haiti, where it is estimated that between three and five million people have been affected. The hurricane is the worst to hit Haiti since 1954 and comes as the country is still vulnerable from the earthquake of 2010.

Marc Antoine, Tearfund’s Haiti Advocacy Officer, said: “Food is scarce, clean water is scarce, but hope abounds. Roofs are gone, livestock are gone, but hope abounds. During my three days in Jeremie I have seen hope in the midst of devastation; it has been the hope of the victims that has reinforced my hope for Haiti.”

Marc Antoine, Tearfund’s Haiti Advocacy Officer, said: “Food is scarce, clean water is scarce, but hope abounds. Roofs are gone, livestock are gone, but hope abounds. During my three days in Jeremie I have seen hope in the midst of devastation; it has been the hope of the victims that has reinforced my hope for Haiti.”

Tearfund has been at work in Haiti for more than 30 years, especially in many of the poorest and most vulnerable areas. Along with local partner organisations, Tearfund has been working hard to make communities more robust – better able to withstand the effects of disasters like this.

Christian Aid partners have been working in Haiti for two years. In response to the latest hurricane they are distributing hygiene kits, including soap, dry food (rice, beans, corn), clean drinking water, water purification tablets, emergency shelter packs (including plastic sheeting), and metal sheeting, nails and hammers to repair roofs.

Christian Aid partners have been working in Haiti for two years. In response to the latest hurricane they are distributing hygiene kits, including soap, dry food (rice, beans, corn), clean drinking water, water purification tablets, emergency shelter packs (including plastic sheeting), and metal sheeting, nails and hammers to repair roofs.

A Christian Aid spokesman said: “We are very pleased to find that homes we had built in southern Haiti after the earthquake had survived the hurricane and are being used to shelter families who lost their homes to the hurricane.”

Moving forward from the Paris climate talks

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As the world looks to reduce its carbon footprint following December’s COP21 talks in Paris, the Door reflects and asks ‘what next?’ as churchgoers consider how to become more environmentally friendly.

One person who attended the COP21 talks was Mike Clark, a member of St Paul’s Banbury. Below he describes his experience. 

I have an investment management background, but on this occasion I attended as a representative of my profession, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. I was asked to contribute to a Roundtable discussion chaired by Carbon Tracker. This organisation has done so much to make carbon investment risk a financial reality – do check out their website! The topic was carbon-related risk disclosure and financial regulation. Contributors came from around the world and represented pension funds, regulators, investment managers, market index providers and academics. We shared perspectives – climate change has so many financial aspects.

Mike Clark, a member of St Paul's, Banbury.

Mike Clark, a member of St Paul’s, Banbury.

The build-up to COP21 had been positive and, although we were in a different venue from the negotiations, this positive feeling was tangible in all the sessions I attended at the Roundtable venue. Even arriving at Gard du Nord by Eurostar, I was greeted by welcoming COP21 billboards in the station. The French managed the whole event with diplomatic aplomb and Laurent Fabius, the COP21 President, was rightly lauded for his efforts, along with Christiana Figueres who led the UN work in the years leading up to the event.

Attending in a professional capacity, it was good to make the link between the earth, where we are all called to be good stewards, and the daily world of finance that I inhabit. More widely, many commentators have picked up on the role that Christians have played in raising climate change up the political agenda.

What of the future? I’d need a page or two to answer that question properly. So let me just note that one UK pension fund, earlier this year, adopted and published their investment policy which states: “Our objective is to ensure that our Fund’s investment portfolio and processes are compatible with keeping the global average temperature increase to remain below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels”. They may be the first with such a policy, but they won’t be the last. So let us go forward in hope!It was a historic COP21, with governments sending a strong signal on climate change. The Paris Agreement will resonate down the years!

 

Pilgrimage to Paris

Jess Hall joined thousands of pilgrims as the Church of England, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund came together to organise a Pilgrimage2Paris ahead of the climate talks. 

Jess Hall, the Berkshire Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid.

Jess Hall, the Berkshire Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid.

Had I realised the impact on my feet, I would have sought out some kind of sponsorship deal with Compeed© for my two days on the Pilgrimage to Paris. But my hope for an ambitious and binding climate deal in Paris was stronger than the ache and pain of the many blisters I acquired on my journey through Surrey and Sussex.

I met up with the group of Pilgrims in Banstead, Surrey, their first destination after setting out from London that morning. Everyone was in good cheer and seemed to have taken the first leg of the journey in their stride.
It was a shock to wake up the next morning to the news of bombs and shootings in Paris, as you can imagine it cast quite a shadow over the joy and celebration of the previous day. Determined we walked on in solidarity and prayer for Paris and in hope of a world where light overcomes the darkness.

Everyone taking part in the Pilgrimage to Paris had a story to tell and as we trod the muddy paths and puddle ridden roads it was a huge privilege to hear some of them. Despite our different backgrounds, church experience and effectiveness of our waterproofs, what united us was the desire to see world leaders come to a meaningful agreement in Paris. We all wanted to see an agreement that would safeguard our planet’s future, bring liberation to the poor and a brighter future for our global community.
On our journey we shared a beautiful ecumenical communion and I was privileged to lead the intercessions. Amid our prayers for those reeling from the Paris attacks, for the world leaders at the COP 21 Climate Talks, and for strength for the journey we shared together this refrain:

We lift our eyes up to the mountains, where does our help come from?
Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

This verse from Psalm 121 seemed to so perfectly speak into both our weakest and most passionate prayers for Paris, and for our world. I had tears in my eyes a few short days later as I watched the footage of 200 world leaders hugging and cheering as they announced that a deal had been reached. An agreement to limit warming to 2°C, pursue renewable energy and provide £100 billion in climate finance for developing countries. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and we must hold our leaders to account. There is also a huge amount to be celebrated, and much to thank the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, for.

Jess Hall  is the Regional Christian Aid Co-ordinator for Berkshire. She is based in the Oxford Christian Aid office.

Become and Eco Church

Eco Church is an award scheme designed to motivate and resource churches to care for God’s earth. Launched in January, Eco Church replaces the Eco Congregation awards from the Christian environmental charity, A Rocha. To participate churches complete an online survey, indicating how they care for God’s earth in worship, teaching, buildings, and in the personal lifestyles of their members. Once they have amassed enough points they can qualify for Eco Church Awards at Bronze, Silver or Gold Level.

Dr Ruth Valerio, the Churches and Theology Director for A Rocha, says: “Caring for the whole creation should impact everything in our church lives and Eco Church is designed to equip us to do just that. We’ve been working really hard to produce this new scheme and I’m looking forward to it launching and to seeing which churches are the first to gain their awards.”

Here is the story of St James’s Church, Gerrards Cross:

The Revd Jenny Tebboth, who is now a curate in the Chalfont St. Giles, Seer Green and Jordans Benefice, was delighted to discover that St James supported A Rocha, but says it niggled her that, despite the church supporting A Rocha financially, creation care was not integrated into church life. Since then St James’s has worked hard to gain a first Eco Congregation Award. “Things are very different now,” she says: “Our recent eco-congregation work has been publicised in A Rocha News as one of the best submissions that they have received. Cindy Crump has taken over the job of A Rocha mission champion and will work with A Rocha and the St James’s ‘Love Creation’ team, who intend to work towards the next level of award.”
Cindy moved to Gerrards Cross and began worshipping at St James’s in 2013 and knew quickly it was the church for her.

And then the environmental projects caught her eye. “Sections of the church garden had tall grasses for the insects, bird and bat boxes were in the trees, and the bulletin indicated opportunities for helping with gardening at the church and walks in the area. I was hooked,” she says. I showed up at a meeting in the autumn of 2013 to talk about the church’s role in creation care. Our aim was to inspire each member of St James’s to work out what it means to care for God’s creation in their own lives, not out of fear or guilt, but to glorify God, and to take a decisive step towards making the operations of St James’s more environmentally friendly.”

Since then Dave Bookless from A Rocha has spoken at services, Life Groups have completed a study on creation care, the recycling collection in the church centre has been improved, Richard Trigg lovingly restored the bird nest boxes and the late Clifford Robinson and Cindy did a survey of the birds and butterflies in the church garden. Blogs on caring for creation have been posted and an energy audit of the church buildings has been completed.

Cindy adds: “Going forward, the ‘Love Creation’ team hopes to continue to mobilize the whole church family to play their part. We will issue ideas and tips to help them live more simply. We would like to find an experienced naturalist who can help with surveying the wildlife in the church garden. We have been looking at the church’s use of energy: we are changing the lights in the St James Centre to be more energy-efficient and brighter, and we’re looking to support A Rocha at Minet Park and other projects. We certainly want ideas from the congregation on how we can all care for God’s creation.

“We are really proud of this award. This has not been achieved by a few hard-working individuals, but by the efforts of many right across the church.”

Register your interest in Eco Church here. 

Book now for EWDC

IT is vital that the Church continues to play a role in the climate response. Experts and delegates from churches will be gathering in Coventry for the 2016 Ecumenical World Development Conference on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 April at the Central Hall. The event will be a chance to reflect on the theological and practical implications of the Paris agreement. Click here to book.

Reflections on the Reading climate day

by the Revd Liz Ratcliiffe

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The Revd Liz Ratcliffe, (right), with Ruth Valerio, is the Curate at Christ Church Reading, and organised the Reading Climate Day.

READING Climate Day in December was a great success, with people from churches, environmental groups and the wider community visiting the Minster for a series of green events. The morning kicked off with a dozen stalls – picked for their environmental and fair trade credentials – arrayed down each side of the aisle. A variety of green goodies were on display, from vegan truffles to pictures made from bits of twig and gemstones. There was something for everybody, and shoppers and stallholders alike came away happy.

In the afternoon, things took a more serious tone, with a talk on climate change, given by Met-Office scientist Professor John Mitchell. John made the complex science understandable to a varied audience, who listened avidly while enjoying beer provided by Reading’s Zero Degrees microbrewery. He stayed to participate in a very lively and good-humoured question-and-answer session afterwards.

The day ended with a specially-written Climate Mass, led by Bishop Andrew, with an inspiring sermon by one of the country’s foremost environmental theologians, Dr Ruth Valerio. Ruth left us all feeling that we had something to offer in the fight against climate change, and the congregation participated enthusiastically in a very moving act of commitment to a more environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

The whole event took place against a backdrop of environmentally-themed prayer stations and information stalls run by green Christian groups such as A Rocha and the John Ray Initiative.

Famine risk in South Sudan

AFTER two years of conflict resulting in mass displacement, human rights abuses and a humanitarian crisis, communities in South Sudan are at breaking point. Experts say there is a concrete risk of famine occuring before Christmas, and Christian Aid is working hard to help people like William (right). William

William fled to Nyal when armed groups seized his livestock and looted and burned his home. Women were raped and many people killed. His sons brought him by canoe, a journey which took four days. Some members of the family have been left behind. William is staying with relatives until it is safe to return home. A Christian Aid partner is working with his family who will soon receive seeds, tools and other emergency items. Donate to Christian Aid here or call 01865 246818.

Celebrating Harvest

AS we approach the  Harvest season the Door explores the importance of food production and the rural church in the UK and beyond.

The Revd John Townend knows that Harvest is an important time for rural England. With the six parishes in the West Downland Benefice, where he is the Rector, and the three schools in his area, he and his Associate Priest, the Revd Mary Harwood will be involved in 11 Harvest Festival services this autumn. Cows

He is also one of the Diocese’s team of rural officers and has been Honorary Chaplain of the Newbury and District Agricultural Society since 2004. This sees him arranging a Rogation service every year, and continuing to be heavily involved in the Royal County of Berkshire Show including their Harvest Festival in the main arena at the showground.

Farmers are reliant on the weather if they are growing crops and John is aware that this has been up and down his year. “In the first nine days of August there was not a drop of rain and the rest of the month was variable. The farmers were getting fed up and during September they were making the most of the dry days for harvesting.”

His diocesan role, working with our Diocesan Rural Officer, the Revd Canon Glyn Evans, sees him involved in Plough Wednesday every January. He remembers one of the years it was held in Berkshire. “We were on the Lambourn Downs on a bitterly cold January morning with the race horse trainer Clive Cox. There were about 40 of us and it was minus five, watching the horses going for their gallop. That was a fantastic day; it was wonderful to see an enormous racehorse nuzzling Bishop Stephen’s ear! Very few people get to see the work of racing stables, but it is such a vital part of rural life in West Berkshire and brings a huge amount of employment to our area. Clive is one of the better known trainers in the country and was keen that we should see how it works. A lot of people question whether the church should be involved in racing because it involves gambling but it’s a very important part of rural life.”
From the horses the gathered people visited the Sheepdrove Organic Farm. “We had lunch there and we spent the afternoon warming up,” says John, who knows that there is a real difference between rural and urban ministry. “A lot of people simply don’t think about where their food comes from or realise that farmers have a pretty rough time. I think it’s essential for the Church to be involved with agricultural life. Agriculture is a vital part of our lives and shapes the countryside we know and love. If it wasn’t for the farmers the countryside would be a very different place.”

John has walked all 85 miles of the Ridgeway and is aware that in the past farming has led to deforestation and the loss of habitat. “But farmers are really conscious of that though, and doing what they can to preserve wildlife and restore much of what was lost,” he says. Some resourceful farmers are diversifying into areas that can help save the planet. One farm in Berkshire visited on last year’s Plough Wednesday talks of its livestock in terms of billions rather than dozens. There they are developing friendly bacteria for, among other uses, waterless urinals, each one saving up to 100,000 litres of water per year.

That day began at another local enterprise, the Saddleback Farm Shop, which includes a café and a range of produce including local venison at the right time of year, and beef produced on the family farm in Brightwalton.
“I know the butcher who joined us on the day, he is a very funny man, but is also very serious about producing the best meat in Berkshire. People were fascinated to see how the beef is produced and his butchery demonstration showed how every part of the deer is used to provide venison. Very little is wasted.”

As well as the rural officer work John takes his work as Rector of the West Downland Benefice very seriously, and enjoys visiting the schools on his patch. “I am a Governor at two schools and our associate priest is the chair of Governors at the other which has two sites,” he says. “We have a relatively small population but we see about 300 children each week during term time.” John was speaking after doing an assembly at one school, explaining the importance of creation and care for the world that God has given us.

Lindengate’s first harvest

Tomatoes grow ready for Lindengate's first harvest.

Tomatoes grow ready for Lindengate’s first harvest.

A happy papier mache bumble bee hangs in the craft centre at  Lindengate.

A happy papier mache bumble bee hangs in the craft centre at Lindengate.

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Bishop Alan with Charlie Powell and Sian Chattle on the flourishing pumpkin patch.

JUST one year ago the Lindengate site, next to the busy World’s End garden centre in Wendover, was an expanse of wasteland.Now it’s a thriving charity where people with mental health needs are learning horticultural skills to help them with recovery. The site boasts a vegetable patch, a craft centre, garden tables and a mixture of different types of flowers and vegetables are growing. The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson,  held a charity fundraiser in 2014 to help Lindengate’s founders, Sian Chattle and Charlie Powell, get the project off the ground in 2014. (For first story from the Door click here.  Sian and Charlie came up with the idea for the project after meeting at St Mary’s Church, Wendover. Last month Bishop Alan re-visited the five-acre site to see how it is developing.

A video of Bishop Alan, Charlie and Sian talking about the project can be watched here:

 

Planting the seeds of survival in Mali

June 2014: Tomey Banou, 50, stands in front of her granary, proudly presenting the shallots she has grown in the women’s market garden in her village. A few years ago the only way Tomey could make money was to chop down trees and sell wood – exacerbating Mali’s desertification problem. Her husband made the decisions about what to grow in their field and when to work. Now she is part of a women’s association and our partner APH negotiated for them to be given good land for a market garden. Last year she saved 50,000 CFA (approx. £60) for the first time in her life, thanks to being able to grow and sell her crops for the first time, and to a small loan from the women’s association which allowed her to set up a small business. When two of her grandchildren got malaria she used her savings to buy medicine for them and they survived. Women have greater status in the community because they are now helping to feed the village through their market garden.

June 2014: Tomey Banou, 50, stands in front of her granary, proudly presenting the shallots she has grown in the women’s market garden in her village. A few years ago the only way Tomey could make money was to chop down trees and sell wood – exacerbating Mali’s desertification problem. Her husband made the decisions about what to grow in their field and when to work. Now she is part of a women’s association and our partner APH negotiated for them to be given good land for a market garden. Last year she saved 50,000 CFA (approx. £60) for the first time in her life, thanks to being able to grow and sell her crops for the first time, and to a small loan from the women’s association which allowed her to set up a small business. When two of her grandchildren got malaria she used her savings to buy medicine for them and they survived. Women have greater status in the community because they are now helping to feed the village through their market garden.

THIS harvest as churches celebrate God’s bountiful creation, Christian Aid is urging Christians to stand alongside women in Mali. They need our support to grow plentiful food to last through the leaner seasons.
The people of the Dogon Plateau region of Mali – one of the driest places on earth ­­ – are constantly at the mercy of the weather. They used to face drought once in a decade, but within the past few years the rains have been far less regular and hunger has become an annual concern.

Opportunities to plant crops during the decreasing rainy season have become fewer as the ground gets drier and drier. The wind carries sand that further erodes the land and destroys crops and the scorching heat means 80 per cent of the rain that does fall evaporates before it can penetrate the soil. A third of Malian children under two are also chronically malnourished – something that’s almost impossible to imagine in the UK. In many communities, women like Tomey (pictured right) have struggled to grow enough food to feed their families. That’s why Christian Aid partner Action for Human Promotion (APH) is providing seeds, tools and training to help women in Tomey’s community to start market gardens. Unlike traditional crops, these gardens are irrigated and do not rely on rain, instead using water from traditional wells that the community dig with guidance from APH. Tomey is now growing and selling vegetables and has been able to save money for the first time in her life and provide for her family.

A Christian Aid spokesman said: “As we celebrate God’s good gifts this harvest and reflect on how fortunate we are to have such a wealth of food, let us remember APH’s work, Tomey’s community and their struggle to protect this complex and fragile creation. This harvest, we are giving families the strength not just to survive, but to thrive. Thank you so much for all you can give.”
For more information about Tomey and her community visit the Christian Aid website. There you can find worship and prayer resources which can be adapted for services and small groups. Visit www.christianaid.org.uk/getinvolved/harvest/ for details.

Tackling the Earthquake’s aftermath

by Jo Duckles

Christian Aid’s local partners are distributing vital emergency supplies in the worst affected areas of Gorkha and Kathmandu Valley. Here, in the village of Kirtipur, a woman receives blankets and food. Photos: Christian Aid/Sam Spickett

Christian Aid’s local partners are distributing vital emergency supplies in the worst affected areas of Gorkha and Kathmandu Valley. Here, in the village of Kirtipur, a woman receives blankets and food. Photos: Christian Aid/Sam Spickett

 

IMAGINE living with the uncertainty of almost daily earthquakes of up to five on the Richter scale in the weeks after two devastating quakes have destroyed

Hundreds of thousands of people continue to sleep outdoors, too scared to return to their shattered homes for fear of aftershocks. Photos: Christian Aid/Sam Spickett

Hundreds of thousands of people continue to sleep outdoors, too scared to return to their shattered homes for fear of aftershocks. Photos: Christian Aid/Sam Spickett

your town or village.
That is what Nepalese people are dealing with as they try and rebuild their homes and lives. “The ‘tremors’ are what most countries would class as full earthquakes,” says Sarah Thurley, the grants and projects manager from the Amersham based ROPE charity.

Sarah, who is set to travel to Nepal and has had links with the country since the early 1990s, said: “There have been more than 450 earthquakes in all, that were 4.5 to 5.5 in magnitude. There were the two big earthquakes and then people have been living with the smaller ones every day. The whole area was so unsettled.”

Sarah has friends who are heading up relief work through the Pokhara Christian Community. A report from ROPE states that in many villages, 80 per cent of houses have been damaged. “People are terrified and children who were in school when the second quake hit, ran out in panic.”

Volunteers have packed and sent trucks to 4,311 houses, delivering rice, lentils, sugar, noodles, spices, mattresses, soap, blankets, rehydration salts and tents. A team of medics responded to a call from a hospital and treated 1,200 people in four days. In Pokhara £35,000 has already been raised.

Paul Valentin, the International Director of Christian Aid, who lives in Oxford, dropped in to Diocesan Church House to update us on what the agency is doing to help. Christian Aid responded from its office in Delhi, through a link up with regional partners, giving an immediate grant from its unrestricted resources. They linked up with the Lutheran World Federation and Danish Church Aid which works under the Global Act Alliance. “We have been working flat out since the earthquake hit.” Christian Aid has helped provide 100,000 people with shelter, which Paul says is a big achievement. He said it is money from Christian Aid Week collections, often in Anglican churches that helps the agency to be able to step in to a crisis situation. Funding is also available from the Disasters Emergency Committee. “People have been generous and we have money to work with for the next three years. We haven’t had to do very much to prompt churches to give. In my experience they are always very generous in a disaster situation. We have a core of loyal supporters who are prepared to step up.” The rebuilding projects are ongoing and Paul will be visiting Nepal in September. “I’ll be able to see the work that’s being done and thank the teams who are doing the relief work to give them moral support,” he added.

Carol Wills, who is heavily involved in Oxford’s Fairtrade movement, had recently met Nepalese Fair Trade representatives at the Fair Trade World Conference. “Something this sensational hits the news for a week or two and then dies down as something else happens.
“The job of reconstruction is going to take years and years,” said Carol, who was aware that buildings that had been part of the country’s culture and tradition, and attracted tourists had been destroyed. “The job of reconstruction is absolutely vast so the Nepalese Fairtraders are doing their bit. I would urge you that if you are going to buy Fairtrade, buy Nepalese products. Buy things like the lovely pashmina shawls that come from Nepal.”

To donate to the Nepal appeals go to:
www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/current/nepal-earthquake-appeal/

www.rope.org.uk where you will also find details of a prayer campaign and anglicanalliance.org/news/20226/update-from-nepal-after-recent-earthquakes

Join the mass climate lobby

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by Maranda St John NicolleThe Palace Of Westminster

CHRISTIANS in the Oxford Diocese are invited to join a mass lobby of Parliament on the issue of climate change. Thousands of people are expected to line the Thames on 17 June, to speak to their newly elected MPs, share with them a vision of a cleaner and greener planet, and urge them to make tackling climate change a priority. The lobby is organised by The Climate Coalition, which includes A Rocha, Christian Aid, and Tearfund among more than 100 members. An ecumenical service just before the event is being organised by the Christian agencies and denominations involved.

Why lobby now?
This year is a crucial one for anyone who cares about how creation will be affected by climate change. In December the world’s governments will meet in Paris to hammer out a deal on reducing carbon emissions and responding to the impact of climate change. It is hoped that this agreement will be the first to incorporate all UN member states, including both historically industrialised nations such as the UK and US and emerging economies such as China, India and South Africa. For this to work, all countries – including the UK – need to show leadership.

This September will also see the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals which, if creation care is included correctly, will go a long way to protecting the people most vulnerable to climate impact.
Christians have the potential to play a crucial role in advocating for agreements that protect the planet and help poorer communities to adapt – and have been asked to do so. At a recent meeting in Cape Town, Anglican bishops from around the Communion stated: “We call all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion to join us in prayer and in pastoral, priestly and prophetic action.”
Individuals and church groups are participating in the “Pray and Fast for the Climate” taking place every first day of the month, installing renewable energy and protecting species in churchyards, exploring food sustainability through the “Food Matters” project, and advocating for sustainability at local and national levels.

Disinvestment
The Oxford Diocese has also taken the lead in calling on the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels. Diocesan Synod passed a motion to this effect last November, and the Revd Hugh Lee will move it at General Synod in July.

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group has itself recently advocated disinvestment from the dirtiest fossil fuels, a move which the Revd Darrell Hannah, co-sponsor of the original Oxford motion, hailed: “The EIAG’s decision to disinvest from coal and tar sands is a good first step and a move in the right direction.  Of course, I hope and pray the General Synod goes further and approves Oxford’s motion calling for disinvestment from oil within three years and natural gas within five.

“If they do not the Church of England risks being stuck with worthless and unsaleable assets as it is becoming increasingly clear that fossil fuels are not the safe investment they used to be.”
For details and to sign up to the lobby contact your local Christian Aid office in Oxford for more information at 01865 246818.

Face to face with climate change in Bolivia

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by Phil Evans

If you don’t believe the climate is changing, take a trip to Bolivia. I was lucky to be able to visit Christian Aid partners working in both the Bolivian Amazon and the High Andes. In both places, people have been suffering from the effects of global warming for decades. And the situation is becoming ever more acute. Children in Capaina, deep in the Amazonian rainforest, told me how last year’s floods were even worse than usual.

“Our village was submerged. Wenceslao, our Corregidor (community leader), swam through the snake-infested water to get help” they told me. “For a long time afterwards, we just didn’t want to play outside. We were still frightened,” they said.

The children also told us how Christian Aid’s local partner Soluciones Prácticas had been the first to come to their aid – assessing the situation and getting to action before any other organisation. Their crops had been devastated. So Soluciones Prácticas made sure Capaina had enough food to tide them over until they could grow new crops. They sourced quick-growing seeds from another part of the Amazon to replace the lost plants as quickly as possible while preserving the indigenous biodiversity. Wenceslao continued, “The village is being flooded more frequently as a result of global warming. These floods were the worst anyone can remember.”

I left the village thinking: “Is this really due to climate change? How can you know?” The answer came when visiting Fundación Solón in La Paz, high in the Andes. Fundación Solón is another Christian Aid partner that raises awareness of climate change, economic justice and access to water. Bolivia’s glaciers have been disappearing for decades. It’s not a recent phenomenon.

Many Bolivians in the High Andes  and in two of Bolivia’s main cities — La Paz and El Alto — depend on the partial melting of Andean glaciers for drinking water during the dry season. Bolivians are truly in the forefront of climate change. Christian Aid partners in Bolivia are helping poor communities like Capaina mitigate the effects of changes to the climate. On a more strategic level, Fundación Solón’s Director, Elizabeth Peredo, is a powerful voice on the international stage. She recently ran seminars at the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change during the COP20 Climate Conference in Peru.

When I spoke to her, she was shocked that some people in the UK don’t believe climate change is even happening. “Tell them our story,” she told me, “we’re living with climate change every day”.

Phil Evans is the Christian Aid Regional Co-ordinator for Buckinghamshire.

Artists raising awareness of water issues through murals (Fundacion Solon)

Artists raising awareness of water issues through murals (Fundacion Solon)

glacier

Glacier Cahaltaya in teh 1940s and recently.

Lisbeth and her quick growing crops.

 

Transforming Lives

ca1This Christian Aid Week (10-16 May), people across the UK can help transform the lives of women like Loko.

Loko’s choice in life is simple: “If I can’t collect firewood, my children will die.”

Four times a week, in a remote corner of Ethiopia, Loko makes a back-breaking eight-hour trip to gather wood. It’s a task she dreads, but she steels herself to do it because if she doesn’t her children will starve.

She prays to God as she walks. “I ask him to change my life and lead us out of this,” she says.

Oxford-based intern Jonnie Walker recently returned from Ethiopia where he met women facing such hardships but also heard stories of change and optimism thanks to the support that Christian Aid partner HUNDEE is giving in these communities.

HUNDEE works with the community to identify the poorest of the poor. These are often women who have no community support, nor any livestock to generate income, yet have to provide for their children and therefore work tirelessly in order to survive.

Jonnie met a woman called Adi Abdura, who had been in a similar place to where Loko presently is. Adi’s life has changed dramatically over the last few years. Through our partners’ work, Adi received a cow and two goats from. These livestock produce milk for her children, provide an income through selling butter and importantly, as assets, they give Adi greater status within the community. She is respected and valued within her community.

Through workshops run by HUNDEE within the community, a dialogue has begun between men and women about the issues they face and about steps they could take towards a better, fairer society. With Adi’s voice, amongst other women’s’, now being heard, laws are being passed that will benefit women throughout the community. Child marriage, excessive drinking and traditional harmful practices such as FGM have been banned, meaning that some of the longstanding problems that have adversely affected women will not affect the future generations. Some of the constraints of poverty are being lifted.

Adi also joined a self-help group where she learns literacy skills and about the importance of saving. The group loans money to members so that they can start up businesses and through this Adi now trades sugar and tea within her village. She has even built her own shop. Her life has really improved. Yet there are still many women who do not yet have this story to tell.

Just £5 could give Loko a loan to start her own business buying and selling tea and coffee, freeing her from her desperate task and allowing her to spend more time caring for her family.

Loko says: “My hope for the future and for my children rests in God. I work day and night and I pray to Him that my children will have good, successful lives.”

From 10-16 May, churches the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland will come together to pray, campaign and raise money to improve the lives of people like Loko.

This is a fantastic opportunity for Christians to demonstrate how their faith motivates them to take action, to show love to our global neighbour and help those in need. As Christians we can take the message of good news out into the community. We can speak of the hope that Jesus brings to peoples’ lives, bringing light in the darkest situations. We can also show how living out Jesus’s commands can bring physical transformation though the love and generosity that we show to others.

In thinking ahead to Christian Aid Week, Jonnie said “For me it was just incredible to see the work of our partners in Ethiopia and to hear stories of tangible change and genuine hope for the future. I want to encourage everyone to get involved in Christian Aid week in whatever way they can, whether this is praying for Christian Aid’s work or helping raise money to fund our amazing partners around the world.”

For more information visit www.caweek.org.

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